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Full text of "The Concord saunterer"

THE CONCORD SAUNTERER 




July 1968 Vol 3 No 2 

The Saunterer - 7 

t! I hewed the main timbers six inches square, 
most of the studs on two sides only, and the raf- 
ters and floor timbers on one side, leaving the 
rest of the bark on, so that they were ,iust as 
straight and much stronger than sawed ones. Each 
stick was carefully mortised or tenoned by its 
stump, for I had borrowed other tools by this time 

!, I have thus a tight shingled and plastered 
house, ten feet wide by fifteen long, and eight- 
feet posts, with a garret and a closet, a large 
window on each side, two trap doors, one door at 
the end, and a brick fireplace opposite 00 

"The next winter I used a small cooking- 
stove for economy, since I did not own the forest; 
but it did not keep the fire so well as the open 
fireplace. •" Walden 



THOREAU'S HOUSE 
Since it does not appear likely that the teal- 
den Pond site will be the location' for a replica 
of Thoreau»s house, we have been thinking about 
such a structure between the Lyceum and the rail- 
road line. ' r his would not be altogether a tour- 
isty thins to do, since we do know in rrreat de- 
tail about this building, from Thoreau's careful 



- 2 - 
description, and from sundry models and 
sketches. Roland Robbins 1 restoration work 
and his own full-size replica are especially 
helpful here. Most people simply do not have 
a clear and correct picture of this house, the 
construction being central to the theme of 
Vialden , and here giving it a motif similar to 
Carlyle 1 s Sartor Resartus . 

Robbins emphasizes that we should call it a 
house, since Thoreau referred to it as such. 

For Thoreau, it was "my house, my abode. 11 

While he left it when he was through with it, 
and took care of its disposal, he was clearly 
satisfied with its carpentry, which was of good 
quality. Thoreau also upon occasion referred 
to it as his cabin, and this is physically ac- 
curate, too, as descriptive of this one-room 
structure. As third parties to its building 
and as non -occupants, lacking a proprietary 
feeling, we might also use this term. It was 
too well-built, clearly, to be called a shanty 
(as Ricketson called his, and as Thoreau called 
other buildings of more casual assemblage). 

John Burroughs called it Thoreau f s hut. 
The word hut means shelter (es httttet uns), with 
suggestions of hymn usage - but with adjectives 
of later usage suggests a certain rudeness. Yet 
the Appalachian trail huts are often well built 
and have withstood rough treatment for twenty- 
five to perhaps fifty years. Hut has some simi- 
lar connotations to the French word for shelter, 
whether from the elements or an air-raid shelter, 
"l'abri". 

At any rate, Roland Robbins has convinced 
us of the Shaker-like neatness of Thoreau 1 s 
Walden Pond house; finding it to have been 
simple but snug and weather -tight, devoid of 
trumpery and excess furniture, and yet not im- 
provident ly built. "None is so poor that he 
need sit on a pumpkin. That is shiftlessness." 



BOX SUPPERS - for either Thoreau Society or 
Lyceum members on July 13 at six. Tickets: $1.50; 
Should be reserved ahead. Checks for tickets 



- 3 - 
should be made out to Thoreau Foundation, Inc., 
and sent to the Lyceum at 48 Belknap Street by 
July 9th. (No, the boxes will not be shaped 
after the fashion of animal cracker boxes, like 
Thoreau 's house - we have other things to do 
that are more urgent, and rewarding). 



TORTS AMD RETORTS 

"It is true, I might have resisted forcibly 
with more or less effect, might have run f ar;ok f 
against society; but I preferred that society 
should run f amok f against me, it being the des- 
perate party..." 

To the extent that the retort does not 
match the tort, it is in danger of replacing 
new wrongs, rather than making rights that can 
stand aright. Since the retort is addressed to 
men of good will, it should rise naturally and 
honestly from the tort, and not be artificially 
created to honor the respondent, If the retort if 
to be effective, its appropriateness must then 
be perceived as inevitable. 

One suspects that in an inequitable world, 
Thoreau saw iniquities, torts, retorts, John 
Browns, struggles, •• Emerson wrote: "All men 
live by truth - and stand in need of expression, 1 
and Thoreau did on a number df occasions find 
expression that was perceptive and evocative. 



The May 196S issue of Boston , published by tl 
Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, features foui 
pages from Roland Robbins* collect icn of Herbert 
W. Gleason pictures with text, "Homage to 
Thoreau" by Brigitte Weeks, Selection, text and 
printing are most attractive. 

As usual, several new IVyeth items have come 
to hand since the last exhibit. Thus: 

"To Chink that Henry David Thoreau was a 
personal acquaintance of my grandfather's and 
family talk about him was commonplace, vet t" 
never read even his Walden until I was twenty- 
four years old." N.C. foyeth wrote in [Catherine 
Williams Watson* s Once Upon a Tim e. 

IMl^Jl^^XoA^Z* August -September 1°6? 



- 4 - 
reproduces the N.C. Wyeth mural of Thoreau with a 
Walcen background, Mrs. George Heebner reminds 
us that this originally appeared in the Satu rday 
Review of Literature back in 1939» 

We note with regret the recent death of 
Henry Beston in his eightieth year. After mili- 
tary service in World War I and a stint of edit- 
ing, he sought a year T s refuge on the furthest 
dunes of Cape Cod - resulting in the book Outer - 
most House . He also wrote one of the best of 
the Rivers of America series, The St . Lawrence , 
Herbs and the Earth , several children's books and 
country books. His wife, Elizabeth Coatsworth, 
has also written in the same subject areas. 



SUMMER HOURS OF THE LYCEUM - Weekdavs, 
10:00 - 5:00; Sundays, 2:00 - 5:00. Closed Mondays 



CURRENT EXHIBIT: Concord and Neighboring Towns in 
the Last Two Centuries: maps, pictures and books. 
Among them are: a set of the Dolittle Prints 
originally done by Amos Dolittle the summer after 
the Battles of Concord and Lexington; a large 
picture of the Encampment of the Massachusetts 
Militia in Concord in vSeptember 1359 about which 
Thoreau made disparaging remarks in the Journals; 
a copy of May Alcott's Sketch Book; a volume of 
the Journals of the Provincial Congresses from 
1771-1775 showing depositions by Minutemen; maps 
of Concord in 1830,1852, 1875 and later; and a 
certificate for change issued by the Concord 
Lyceum in 1862. 

The "face of the country" is silhouetted in 
maps and caught in these photographs, drawings 
and texts. The maps showed the refusal of a 
certain farmer to let his land become part of the 
newly-formed township of Carlisle when it sep- 
arated from Ccncord, so for years it -remained an 
insular or satellite Concord as the earth turned, 
and the farmer turned his earth. Mo doubt he 

didn't want to live in Carlisle because the winters 
were so cold there. Eventually, the matter was 
resolved, as the maps tell. 



- 5 - 
JULY EXHIBIT - Photographs of ^horeau Country 
and Cape Cod by Herbert W. Gleason. Colored 
photographs of Walden in Winter by Dr. Peverill 
Meigs, geographer and climatologist , who has 
been studying the freezing and thawing of Wal- 
den for 14 winters* We hope to have some pic- 
tures of Canadian ponds similar to Walden taken 
by John Hicks of Toronto. 

NEW EXHIBITS: Loaned by the Emerson family are 
an original survey of Emerson f s Ledge woodlot at 
Walden and the key to it copied by Emerson from 
Thoneau f s field note-books in 1362. Loaned by 
Trustee Charles W. Dee is a receipted bill from 
Thoreau to the Town of Concord in 1859 for sur- 
veying for the extension of Bedford Road and 
inspecting the stone bridge over the Assabet. 
Loaned by John Henry Parke of Concord is an 
1&40 penny found in 1933 near the site of 
Thoreau f s Walden house. 

Loaned by Bill Towler of Concord are two 
large photographs of Walden, one from a guide 
book to Concord dated 1#92 and the other a much 
enlarged copy of a 191C colored postcard. 

GIFTS: Laurence E. Richardson of Concord has give 
the Lyceum a facsimile of an unpublished letter 
from Thoreau to Mrs. Addison Brown of Brattle- 
boro in February 1^55 • 

Mrs. Kenneth C. Miller of Washington's 
Headquarters, Newburgh, Mew York, has kindly 
presented us with a copy of the printed version 
of the Botanic Manuscript of Jane Colden , first 
woman botanist of Colonial America. This 
beautiful volume is one of a limited edition 
printed by the Garden Club of Orange and Dutchess 
Counties. 



HARVARD COLLEGE: We had occasion recently to 
look at the Class Reports for twenty-fifth and 
fiftieth anniversaries, the reports that fascj 
nated John harquand and gave hJr. the source fo' 
a book about the class of 1390. m he oldest 
graduate is now of the class of 1S33, but this 
era is now antediluvian. 

So we took ciown the Necrology of Alumni 
of Harvard College, 1851-2 to ±Xb2-'} , with its 



- 6 - 

biography of David Henry, It is strong on 
genealogy, and peppered with references to 
other Harvardians, as his grandfather, Rev. 
Asa Dunbar (H.C. 1767) - a minister in Salem, 
and afterwards a lawyer in Keene, an eminent 
freemason; and Ralph Waldo Emerson (H.C. 1S21). 

"With the exception of the six months at 
Stat en Island (as a private tutor in the family 
of William Emerson (H.C. l8lS)), he resided 
constantly in Concord, leading chiefly an agri- 
cultural and literary life; supporting himself 
by his own hands, being a pencil-maker; often 
employed as a painter, surveyor, and carpenter. 
Nearly every year, he made an excursion on 
foot to the woods and mountains in Maine, Mew 
Hampshire, New York, and other places. For 
two years and two months continuously, he 
lived by himself in a small house or hut of 
his own building, about a mile and a half from 
Concord village. He was well known to the 
public as the author of two remarkable books, 
A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers , 
published in 1849? and Walden, or Life in "the 
Woods , published in 1#5^ These books have never 
had a wide circulation, but are well known to 
the best readers, and have exerted a powerful 
influence on an important class of earnest and 
contemplative persons Q He led the life of a 
philosopher, subordinating all other pursuits 
and so-called duties to his pursuit of know- 
ledge, and to his estimate of duty. He was a 
man of firm mind and direct dealing; never dis- 
concerted, and not to be turned, by any induce- 
ment, from his own course. He had a penetrating 
insight into men with whom he conversed, and 
was not to be deceived or used by any party, 
and did not conceal his disgust at any dupli- 
city. As he was incapable of the least dis- 
honesty or untruth, he had nothing to hide; 
and kept his haughty independence to the end. 
He was never married " 



Sales of our hardbound - using the term 
to distinguish it from paperback, not as 
stern or Puritanical - edition of Henry 
Thor eau as Remembered bv a Younp; Friend, 



- 7 - 
by Edward Waldo Emerson (again, H.C. et cetera), 
are beginning to meet our expectations. Postpaid, 
this is $3.25. If you are in Concord, copies 
can be obtained at $3«09 f the latter being for 
the Commonwealth. • • 



CONCORD 
A 1934 issue of Esquire had an article 
ent it led" Conquered, Mass." by Thomas Wood, late 
of this town. It was not exactly a Chamber of 
Commerce piece; rather a mixture of truth and 
snideness - like many issues there are two 
snides to them, a right and a left. 

Today the population has more than doubled 
since then, but quite selectively, with houses 
(including huts, etc.) selling at over $30,000. 
Hence, most newcomers are in the upper percen- 
tiles in income, and so today 1 s selective cri- 
teria are rather unlike those in Thoreau f s day, 
which was marked by the advent (over Emerson T s 
signed protest, and at some human cost in 
Yankee and Irish lives) of the railroad, and of 
the chair factory, the powdermill and other in- 
dustries which Thoreau watched shrewdly. 

Earlier still, Concord's first settlers 
were gentlemen farmers, establishing the archi- 
tecture and the relationship with Harvard and 
cultural activities which persisted (though 
Thoreau kidded the addiction to a series of 
vapid popular novels called "Little Reading" - 
"I aspire to be acquainted with wiser men than 
this our Concord soil has produced -")• 

For most of a century, commuting was by 
rail over the Fitchburg R.R., later the Boston and 
Maine. With the advent of factories, somewhat 
newer towns a few miles west were built up. Thus 
one gets a familiar checkerboard effect of gen- 
teel towns with farmers turned merchants and 
professionals, with the circuit court, shire 
town, cattle fair (in the western or Texas part 
of town, here); and one has towns with larger 
mills, with numbers of immigrants of different 
origins, Finns, Poles, French, Italians follow- 
ing the Irish. 



- 6 - 

Mthal we do like to live with some 
nature, - preserving some of the current con- 
tinuum of natural history - and yet, like the 
partyseekers in The Masque of the Red Death 9 
who sought escape from the plague of the cities 
in a castle, we must wonder at this process 
and prospect. 



THE THOREAU LYCEUM 
MEMBER SHI P/RENEWAL 

Annual Dues 

Member ♦ • f> 3 

Friend of the Lyceum. •• 10 

Contributing Member.... 25 

Life Member. 100 

48 Belknap Street, Concord, Massachusetts, 
01742. Telephone 617-369-5912. Non-profit 
& tax-exempt • • • • 



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